The past couple of months have seen a number of new initiatives and shifts on the global online retail front: Zara went live with a series of eCommerce sites (in five languages in Spain alone) while Gap started selling to an international online audience. At the same time, eBay conceded the market in China and looked to partner with market leader Alibaba. More companies have started coming to us asking about eCommerce in less traditional markets, with markets like Russia and Saudi Arabia being brought up with increasing frequency in our calls with clients.
Forrester just kicked-off our 2010 Retail Executive Survey, and we want your input. We partnered with Pricegrabber, PayPal, Commission Junction, and StoreFrontBackTalk to create a survey which looks at multichannel retailers' organizations and topics relevant to the challenges currently facing their roles including:
eBusiness technology decisions
Social media and mobile trends
Online customer service
Customer loyalty programs
The survey takes just about 15 minutes to complete and all of the data will be used anonymously and in aggregate. As a thank you for completing this survey and once it is closed, you will be able to access the data to help benchmark against your peers.
The results from the survey will serve Forrester's eBusiness and retail research agenda; we look forward to gaining insight from your responses.
Okay, so it’s no Brown v. Board of Education, but for those in retail, the 1992 U.S. Supreme Court case of Quill v. North Dakota could be considered just as landmark. For the uninitiated, it spelled out the regulations surrounding collecting sales tax for states in which they have no physical presence – in short, that they weren’t allowed to do it.
With elections around the corner, many politicians and associations are stumping on this very issue. They believe that many retailers are exempting themselves from paying the sales tax that the state ultimately deserves. After all, 45 states in total collect sales tax from brick and mortar stores, which end up accounting for roughly 25 percent of their total income. Sensationalism abounds in the discussion of this lost revenue: "Some of the things that have gone on in this recession would not have happened if sales taxes had not gone uncollected," said Scott Peterson, executive director of Streamlined Sales Tax Governing Board.
Since 2003, a majority of the remaining retailers have followed suit in collecting tax, leaving pureplays, many of whom are mom and pops who in this economy are at least earning income. Assessing taxes on these businesses won’t really help anyone except Walmart. And let’s be realistic here: Even studies like the one by the University of Tennessee say only 25% of eCommerce sales taxes that are “due” go uncollected. And we know from our surveys that 65% of people say that Web sales taxes (if increased) would cause them to decrease their online spend. With these facts that chip away at the supposed billions that supposedly go uncollected, this appears to be a much less pervasive issue than once put forth.
On Wednesday of last week, Ann Zimmerman of The Wall Street Journalreported on my former employer, Toys “R” Us, which is planning to open up 600 temporary “pop-up stores” in anticipation of the holiday shopping season. The WSJ describes it as a super-sized bet while the company maintains it is a proven strategy. Like most prospective retail decisions in this uncertain economic period, it is likely a mixture of both.
Ann certainly has some legitimate weight behind her assertions:
The space in which the pop-up stores will reside is distressed for a reason. Who can guarantee that a watered-down version of Toys “R” Us will be able to overcome inherent issues such as poor foot traffic or a bad location?
Toys “R” Us has historically experienced issues with inventory; the majority of it never turns and Toys "R" Us often sells out of its best sellers before the season comes to a close.
While trends show improvement, there is no guarantee of economic rebound for the holiday seasons. This could spell disaster if Toys “R” Us moves forward with 600 new shops.
One of the things that continues to surprise me about many banks’ multi-channel strategies is how little most banks have integrated their ATMs into those strategies. Cash machines are by far the most commonly used banking channel. According to Forrester’s Consumer Technographics data, 74% of adults in Western Europe use a cash machine at least once a month, far more than use either branches or online banking that often.
Despite the introduction of Windows-based operating systems and colour screens, most banks aren’t doing much to engage customers on this most-frequent touchpoint. Most do little more than promote the product of the month to all comers. Only a few leaders, like Singapore’s OCBC Bank and Spain’s La Caixa, have integrated ATMs into their CRM systems, which lets them do clever things like remembering customer’s normal withdrawal amount, wishing customers a happy birthday and making products offer that are relevant to that particular customer.
I am intrigued by last week's announcement from UK payment processor VocaLink and Australian financial software vendor eWise that they are collaborating to build an online banking transfer payment system for the UK. Online banking transfer systems make it (fairly) easy for online shoppers to authorize payments through online banking by integrating the payment details into their bank's secure online banking site. The customer is routed directly from the merchant's site to the bank to authorize the payment and back again.
In the Netherlands, the iDEAL online banking transfer system has been highly successful. It's now used by some 10 million Dutch online shoppers for about 5 million transactions a month. But the UK's online shopping market is different to the Dutch one in a couple of important ways. Firstly, debit cards can be used to pay online in the UK. Since almost all adults have a debit card, paying online is not a big problem in the UK, unlike many other European markets. Secondly, UK Net users have always been relatively complacent about online security compared with other Europeans. That means that one of the primary attributes of an online banking transfer system -- more robust security -- may not cut that much ice with British online shoppers.
Forrester has long argued that any new payment system needs to overcome three hurdles to succeed: providing a clear improvement over the existing alternatives, driving consumer and merchant adoption, and developing a viable business model for all parties.
Apps dominate the mobile conversation these days for a lot of well-demonstrated reasons, but with much less fanfare, the mobile Internet — especially the frequency of its users — has taken off. I don’t mean just that ‘mobile Web use has grown’ or it’s continuing to grow at steady pace. No. The rate of growth has jumped dramatically.
In the six months between year-end 2008 and mid-2009, daily use of the mobile Internet grew from 7% to 10% for all mobile phone users. Once you narrow it down and look at smartphone owners, the growth is even more startling, as you can see in this report. Better handsets, better browsers, and faster networks have remade the mobile Internet from a novelty to a growing, and growing quickly, part of mobile users’ daily lives.
I attended the unveiling of shopkick's new location-based technology at the Best Buy around the corner from my office today. Here are the highlights:
Downloadable application for the iPhone at launch in several weeks; will roll out apps for additional phones.
If the application is open, it senses where the individual is and what retail partners or other commercial businesses, such as grocery stores, drug stores, restaurants, etc. are nearby. Award points are given when the consumer walks through the door. shopkick installs technology inside the store that acts as a beacon communicating with mobile phones. If the application is open, it will recognize the signal, place the consumer within the store - either at the entrance or a specific department - and award points.
Once a consumer is inside the store, the service will award points for browsing and for using the built-in barcode scanner to get more product and pricing information.
The solution is integrated at the point of sale (POS) with the consumer's phone number. With purchases, consumers collect both store loyalty points as well as shopkick loyalty points. Loyalty points can be redeemed for special offers or cash - directly from the application. The value of the points in real retailer dollars will be set by the retailer.
About four or five months ago, I was on a United flight bound to the east coast from San Francisco. For reasons I don't remember, I had booked the ticket on Orbitz (I usually book directly so my records, receipts, etc. are all in my profile). Am boarded. Am sitting in a middle seat. Sigh. "Ping" goes my phone. I receive an alert that our flight has been delayed 20 minutes. I open my bag and pull out a salad. The two gentlemen in between whom I am squeezed look at me oddly and exchange glances as they expect the doors to close and the plane to back away from the gate. Salad finished. "Ping" goes my phone again. There is a maintenance issue with the plane. The "equipment" is being changed and we are being moved one gate over. I begin packing up my things, remove my seat belt and give the guy on the aisle my look that says, "are you moving or what?" He says to me, "where are you going?" I say, "equipment + gate change." He says, "how do you know?" I say, "SMS alert from Orbitz." He says, "What is an Orbitz?" More puzzled looks are exhanged. (Do I really want to explain a text alert in the year 2010 to someone who doesn't know what Orbitz is?) Several minutes later there is an announcement from the flight attendant with the same information, and everyone gets up to move. Now my fellow passengers are more intrigued. A third party is more efficiently delivering information to United's passengers than United is to their agents or customers directly.
I don't know how many times I've seen this poster in a United Airlines jetway and wondered, "Is this recent? or 20 years old? Do a lot of doctors fly? Is that why they advertise pagers?"
I was walking through DuPont Circle in Washinton DC last week. I stumbled upon Axis Salon. I was so intrigued by the glass storefront that I had to hang up the phone and stare. The salon front was COVERED in QR codes!!!
Close-up of shop name:
Instructions to download: (they recommend 3GVision's i-nigma)
They should be telling consumers more about what phones are compatible, probably. There should probably be more instructions, but at least they OFFER instructions.
Scan the code ... link to a Web site with a coupon.
It's pretty basic, but very effective. They must have a lot of people asking. It's certainly driving buzz - I mentioned it to a couple of people I met in DC, and they knew about it. Partial instructions available. Lack of compatibility with most phones ... maybe an issue, but those who don't know about 2D codes are probably also less likely to ask. Fun.